J-Smoove Ranked Top Perimeter Defender in NBA

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
By Jaryd Wilson

Bradford Doolittle from Basketball Prospectus ranked the top perimeter defenders in the NBA based on six statistical categories he pulled from various databases.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks

The number one player on the list?  Josh Smith.

For the sake of time and confusion, I won’t explain Doolittle’s formula.  You can read it here (ESPN Insider access required) if you’re curious as to how J-Smoove wound up number one.

The fact is, no one is better at defending the wing than Smith when you look at points allowed on isolations, points allowed by position, blocks, steals and the +/- factor.

From Doolittle:

“Smith is certainly athletic enough to guard any position on the floor, though it’s questionable whether he is a true perimeter stopper because of the amount of time he spends at power forward and guarding the rim. According to my system, he has played 33 percent of his minutes at small forward this season. He ranks sixth on a per-possession basis against isolations and second in steal-plus-block percentage. Smith is just a really good defensive player, which hasn’t always been the case during his career.”

Smith’s defense has helped the Hawks win several games this season.  In fact, he’s made some plays that have single-handedly ignited the Hawks when they needed it most.

On the stat line, his 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game are impressive, yet not overwhelming.  But what he does in isolation defense is what’s really impressive.  His long frame allows him to contest shots that others wouldn’t be able to alter, and he’s good enough with his feet to not allow smaller, quicker guards to drive on him.  As a result, coach Larry Drew often puts Smith on the other team’s best scorer at the end of the game, much like Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra does with Lebron James (who also made Doolittle’s list).

Arguably the most memorable defensive play of the season, not only for Smith but for the entire team, came Friday against Boston.  The Celtics gave the ball to Paul Pierce at the end of overtime with a chance to win.  Pierce dribbled to the elbow before trying one of his signature fade away jump shots.  Smith got a hand on it as the buzzer sounded, and the Hawks won in the next OT period.

Very few players can have the type of impact on both ends of the floor that Smith can.  It’s great to see him get recognized for it.

Photo of Smith blocking Pierce by Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

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